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Pregnancy places a lot of stress on the body. This is understandable, after all, you’re creating life! Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel like a walk in the park. Pregnancy brings regular aches and pains with it. Back pain, sore feet, and aching muscles all occur in a pregnant person’s day-to-day life.
If these issues occurred outside of pregnancy, most people would take a painkiller, soak in a bubble bath, or use a heating pad to relieve their pain.
However, if you’re pregnant, you’ll have to rethink some of these remedies, as they could be unsafe for you and the baby. Heating pads don’t sound that dangerous, so are they safe to use when pregnant?
You can use a heating pad while pregnant, but only when used correctly and appropriately. Do not use it on your stomach, minimize the time the heating pad is used, and consult your doctor or obstetrician if your pain and discomfort persists.
We’ll cover how to use a heating pad safely during pregnancy within this article. You’ll also find some alternatives that can alleviate pregnancy pains without using heat.
Why Do Pregnancy Pains Happen?
Many things can cause pregnancy aches and pains, in particular back pain. These include:
Hormones: A pregnant person’s system creates hormones that help prepare your body for delivery. As these hormones loosen your joints, they can’t support your back as well as they used to, which can cause back pain.
Shifting Center Of Gravity: Your uterus increases in size to support a growing baby. This alters your center of gravity which affects your posture and the way you walk. Pregnant people often lean backward to stop themselves from falling. This can add stress to the lower back, causing soreness and pain.
Extra Weight: The average weight gain during pregnancy ranges between 25-35 pounds. This is lots of extra weight for your muscles, especially your back. Keeping this weight supported leads to pain in the affected muscles.
Stress Levels: Naturally, pregnancy is stressful. Trying to prepare for the baby both before and after its birth is a tricky process. Increased stress builds up in the body, particularly in weaker areas, like your back.
How Does Heat Relieve Pain?
Heat is often recommended for sore muscles, as it helps the pain in many ways. Heat makes blood vessels within the muscles dilate. As they get wider, this increases blood flow, which directs more nutrients and oxygen towards the muscles. This helps them heal and repair.
Heat also acts on sensory nerves within the skin. This lowers the number of pain signals that are sent to the brain, temporarily alleviating discomfort.
Lastly, heat also stretches soft tissue, like ligaments, muscles, and tendons. As they stretch, they become more flexible and less stiff, which aids and reduces the chance of injury.
Tips On Using Heating Pads Safely
Heat therapy is an effective and reliable way of reducing aches and pains. Hot baths aren’t recommended during pregnancy, as they can increase your core temperature. A higher temperature can lead to miscarriage and birth defects.
- Heating pads are a safe alternative to hot baths, but they need to be used correctly, especially when pregnant. Here are some guidelines you should follow.
- Don’t use the heating pad for a long period. The heating pad shouldn’t be placed on an area for over 20 minutes. Longer than this can cause burns. Electric heating pads usually come with a timer for safe use. If you’re using a non-electric device, like a hot water bottle, set a timer yourself, particularly if you think you’ll fall asleep.
- Use a lower temperature. Always begin at the lower heat setting, then increase if necessary. Don’t start at the highest setting, as your body temperature may rise and endanger the baby.
- Never apply the pad on top of the skin. Either place the pad over clothing or cover it with a thin piece of fabric. Contact with skin can cause burns, adding to the pregnancy aches and pains you’re suffering with already.
- Apply to a specific area. Don’t use more than one heating device or place heat on big areas of your body. This won’t target the sore muscles, but this can also raise your core temperature. Use the heating pad in one place at a time, like your shoulder, then move it to the next place after 20 minutes.
- Never use the pad on your stomach. Heating pads are fine to use on your joints and other muscles, but never on your abdomen. Placing heat on your stomach may alleviate pains within the abdomen, but these pains may be a sign of serious pregnancy issues. Heat on the abdomen can also raise your body temperature too much, which can affect the baby.
- Never use the pad with an ointment or salve. Lots of these lotions and balms are designed to produce heat. On contact with more heat, this can place a lot of heat on the area and cause burns.
Heating Pad Alternatives To Relieve Pain
The tips above will help you keep safe when using a heating pad, but if you don’t want to use one, here are a few alternatives.
Shoes: Flat shoes may seem better than heels, but these won’t have enough arch support for your feet. Opt for low-heeled shoes with a supportive insole. Never wear high heels as this can further affect your center of gravity.
Lift Correctly: There are no guidelines about whether lifting is safe or not during pregnancy, but it’s best to avoid lifting 30 pounds or more. No matter how heavy or small the object is, always lift properly. Squat and use your legs to support the weight. Don’t use your back to lift or bend at the waist. Never exceed your limits and lift more than you can handle. Always ask for help if it’s too much effort.
Try A Support Belt: These belts are worn around your core and are designed to support your back. This can go a long way in preventing back pain throughout your pregnancy.
Medication: Speak to a medical professional about pregnancy-safe painkillers to relieve aches and pains.
The Bottom Line
Aches and pains are common throughout pregnancy, but using a heating pad can help. Make sure that you never place the pad on your abdomen or exceed 20 minutes of use.
This can raise your temperature and affect the baby. Heat is an effective way of relieving pain, but there are alternatives, including support belts and medication. However, if you experience back pain that lasts longer than a fortnight, see your doctor, as this could be a sign of something dangerous.